Kenji or Kenneth? Pearl Harbor and Japanese-American Assimilation
50 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018 Last revised: 4 Mar 2021
Date Written: July 23, 2018
Do immigrants assimilate in response to an exogenous shock in anti-immigrant sentiment? This paper investigates this question by examining the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a natural experiment. I generate an index for the Americanization of first names from the 1900-1930 censuses and merge this index with records from the universe of Japanese-American internees during WW2. Regression discontinuity in day-of-birth estimates suggest that Japanese Americans born in the days after Pearl Harbor were more likely to have an Americanized first name relative to children born in the days before December 7th, 1941. There is no discontinuity in socioeconomic variables, and a within-family analysis yields similar results.
Keywords: assimilation, naming practices, Japanese Americans, internment camps, Pearl Harbor
JEL Classification: J15, N12, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation